Key global environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2012

21.03.2014

Peter Barfoot, Graham Brookes

Against the background of increasing awareness and appreciation of issues such as global warming and the impact of mankind’s activities such as agriculture on the global environment, this paper updates previous assessments of some key environmental impacts that crop biotechnology has had on global agriculture. It focuses on the environmental impacts associated with changes in pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions arising from the use of GM crops. The adoption of the technology has reduced pesticide spraying by 499 million kg (-8.7%) and, as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops (as measured by the indicator the Environmental Impact Quotient [EIQ]) by18.6%. The technology has also facilitated a significant reduction in the release of greenhouse gas emissions from this cropping area, which, in 2012, was equivalent to removing 11.88 million cars from the roads.